The best game of Andrew Wiggins' short Kansas career helped temper the fact that the regular-season champion Jayhawks are limping into the Big 12 tournament with losses in two of their last three games.
Wiggins scored a season-high 41 points, a record from a Jayhawks freshman, but his effort to bring the Jayhawks back from a 25-point deficit fell just short and No. 8 Kansas lost to West Virginia 92-86 on Saturday.
Before fouling out in the final seconds, Wiggins broke Ben McLemore's freshman single-game scoring record of 36 points set last season. It marked the second-most points ever by a Big 12 freshman. Michael Beasley had 44 for Kansas State against Baylor in 2008.
"There's nobody in America that will have a better game than what Andrew did today," Kansas coach Bill Self said. "He was really good."
Wiggins, who also had eight rebounds, four blocks and five steals to go along with 12-of-18 shooting from the field, wasn't in a mood to pat himself on the back in his return to the state where he played his high school ball.
"I'd rather score five points and win than 40 and lose," he said. "So to me, it's not really something that great because we lost."
Kansas was without 7-foot freshman Joel Embiid, who sat out his second straight game to rest a lower back strain. Tarik Black, starting in Embiid's place, went to the bench with his second foul four minutes into the game.
With their NCAA chances all but gone, the Mountaineers (17-14, 9-9 Big 12) could have finished with a thud like they had in losing four of their five previous games.
West Virginia made some clutch free throws in the final minute to thwart the comeback and keep coach Bob Huggins' sanity intact.
"When we get a little more experience, we'll handle those things a little better," said Huggins, who earned $25,000 for beating Kansas in the regular season, one of the bonus clauses in a 2012 contract extension.
Eron Harris led West Virginia with 28 points, Juwan Staten added 24 and Devin Williams, WVU's star freshman, had a season-high 22 points along with 13 rebounds. It marked the first time this season that Kansas had allowed three opposing players to score 20 points.
"I thought Staten controlled the game," Self said. "Harris was terrific and Williams was by far the best big in the game. ... Give them credit. They were a lot better than us offensively than we were defensively."
West Virginia shot 53 per cent from the floor and outrebounded Kansas 37-31.
Perry Ellis added 14 points for Kansas (23-8, 14-4), which clinched its 10th straight regular-season title a week ago and had little riding on this game. The Jayhawks will have a first-round bye in the conference tournament that begins Wednesday in Kansas City, Mo.
The Mountaineers led nearly the entire game but fell apart down the stretch. Still, West Virginia managed to beat a ranked team for the third time in seven tries over the past month.
Kansas went more than seven minutes without a field goal spanning the halves and found itself with its biggest deficit of the season, 64-39, with 16:43 left in the game after a Harris 3-pointer.
But the Mountaineers have had trouble holding double-digit leads this season, and Kansas — especially Wiggins — was hardly done.
West Virginia struggled against Kansas' full-court press, and Wiggins followed Landen Lucas' three-point play with four free throws and a 3-pointer over a 47-second span to pull Kansas within 78-68 with 6:13 remaining. Wiggins scored 14 straight points at one point for the Jayhawks.
Frank Mason's 3-pointer trimmed the deficit to 85-80 with 1:24 left. But West Virginia made 7 of 8 free throws in the final minute to hang on.
Backups Lucas and Jamari Traylor couldn't keep up with Williams, who scored 10 straight points for the Mountaineers at one point. He had 18 in the first half to give the Mountaineers a 50-38 halftime lead — the most points given up by the Jayhawks in the first half this season.
West Virginia had its second sellout of the season, thanks to hundreds of Kansas fans who made the 900-mile trek east and those especially coming to see Wiggins, who played his high school ball on the other side of the state at Huntington Prep.
"I've never seen him play like that," Huggins said. "When he makes shots he's really difficult to defend."